S-1348.1  _______________________________________________


                         SENATE BILL 5884



State of Washington      55th Legislature     1997 Regular Session


By Senators Kline, Patterson, Long, Prentice, Winsley, Kohl, Heavey, Brown, McAuliffe, Fraser, Sheldon, Finkbeiner and Goings


Read first time 02/18/97.  Referred to Committee on Law & Justice.

Protecting the act of breast-feeding.

    AN ACT Relating to breast-feeding; amending RCW 9A.88.010; adding a new section to chapter 49.60 RCW; creating a new section; and prescribing penalties.




    Sec. 1.  RCW 9A.88.010 and 1990 c 3 s 904 are each amended to read as follows:

    (1) A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.  The act of breast-feeding a baby is not indecent exposure as defined under this section, regardless of whether or not the nipple of the woman's breast is covered during or incidental to breast-feeding.

    (2) Indecent exposure is a misdemeanor unless such person exposes himself to a person under the age of fourteen years in which case indecent exposure is a gross misdemeanor on the first offense and, if such person has previously been convicted under this subsection or of a sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, then such person is guilty of a class C felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 2.  The legislature finds and declares that the surgeon general of the United States recommends that babies from birth to one year of age be breast-fed in order for the baby to attain an optimal healthy start in life, unless breast-feeding in particular cases is medically contraindicated.  Despite this recommendation, statistics show that a declining percentage of mothers choose to breast-feed their babies.  Nearly half of all new mothers are now choosing formula over breast-feeding before they even leave the hospital.  Only twenty percent of those mothers are still breast-feeding when their babies are six months old, and only six percent are still breast-feeding when their babies are one year old.

    The legislature further finds and declares studies show that breast milk offers a baby better nutrition, immunity, and digestion, and may raise a baby's IQ.  Furthermore, it is believed that breast-feeding increases the bonding between mother and baby.  However, social constraints of modern society may militate against the choice of breast-feeding and lead new mothers to opt for formula feeding.  Mothers may choose not to breast-feed for reasons such as embarrassment or the fear of social ostracism or criminal prosecution.

    The legislature finds and declares ending the embarrassment and fear women experience with the subject of breast-feeding will promote family values and infant health.  Public acceptance of this most basic act of nurture between mother and baby should be encouraged, and no mother should be made to feel incriminated or socially ostracized for breast-feeding her baby.


    NEW SECTION.  Sec. 3.  A new section is added to chapter 49.60 RCW to read as follows:

    (1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast-feed a baby in any location, public or private, where the woman is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the woman's breast is covered during or incidental to the breast-feeding.

    (2) It is an unfair practice for a person to discriminate against or refuse to admit or serve a woman in a place of public resort, accommodation, assemblage, or amusement because she is breast-feeding her baby.

    (3) In addition to any other remedy provided in this chapter, a person who has violated subsection (2) of this section may be subject to a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars.  All civil penalties recovered under this section shall be paid into the state treasury and credited to the general fund.


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